If you want to start a divisive conversation with anyone, state you opinion on labor unions. The chasm between supporters and opposition is huge. There is hardly any acknowledgement of real estate between either side. You are either for them, or against them. Both sides often present skewed information to prove their value and refute effectiveness of the other side’s arguments.
I am not going to get into the middle of that discussion either. I do have an opinion on labor unions, but that is not the purpose of this story or the blog in general. Instead, I want to talk about one of the good things to come out of union membership.
From the day I was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Disease, I became a “prisoner” to my current empolyer. As with many health challenges, once you become a liability with your health, insurance companies do not want you or your premiums that you pay. While they do pay out claims, they are in the business to make money, to gamble against you and your health.
The first job that I ever had that gave me health benefits was Wagner Appliance Parts, a “family” type business in the Allentown area. With the help of a good reference, I was hired by Jeff Wagner. Two years later was when I was diagnosed with my Hodgkin’s. It was also at that time, that my employer realized what he was not getting for his investment. Wagner’s was not a union business, so benefits were at the generosity of the Wagner’s. And for years they felt as if their employees had good health coverage because why would their agent sell them anything less. But with my diagnosis came a sad realization for Jeff, that our plan had many exemptions and limitations that could have profound impacts on diagnosis and treatments. The night I told Jeff of my diagnosis, and the doctor’s plans due to my health benefits, is when he called his insurance representative and upgraded our coverage.
For three years following, I was an employer there. But an opportunity came up to operate my own business/franchise, something that I had been denied in spite of my qualifications, or the fact that management constantly had me training the future managers. There was going to be one catch. I would not be offered any benefits because of the prohibitive costs. But my career had plateaued and this would only be temporary to give myself experience. Five years went by, had it not been for the HMO my wife had.
A break came when I landed a job with an entirely different company, a major, international firm. I would be starting as a custodian, the lowest scale of the local union. But what the union offered in health coverage was more than I could ever have hoped. The great thing is, it could not be denied. In the last five years, I have had my share of claims paid and I would have been dropped long ago. But with this group policy, it cannot happen so I am told.
The economy and the new universal health care are creating issues which my opinions in these matters are not what this post is about, but rather reveal what employers are doing to skirt around having to offer benefits from under-enrollment, cutting hourly workers below full time. As far as I am concerned, you must fight to keep whatever coverage you currently have if you are happy for it.